Improving the quality and security of children’s lives would be impossible without community participation. Some best practices in the area ?

Community participation is central to the sustenance of any development initiative. The recently released book, Communities for Children: Selected Good Practices in Improving Children’s Well-being through Community Participation, prepared with technical guidance and inputs of Save the Children (SC) and jointly published by SC and Public Interest Foundation (PIF), reiterates it with regard to the rights-based development of children. The study documents the impact of community participation in improving access and quality of elementary education, protecting children at risk of exploitation and abuse, and in improving child health and nutrition. The Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, has worked on this study with the guidance and inputs from Save the Children.

The book documents 30 selected good practices; 10 each from the fields of education, child protection and health and nutrition from different States such as Rajasthan, UP, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. These practices are not only from Non Governmental Organisations but from the Government as well, indicating a recognition that good practices are being produced in the Government sector as well. The practices documented are from a number of organisations including SC.

A list of good practices was suggested by the advisers of this project. Dr. Sarala Gopalan with her vast experience in various thematic areas was the overall adviser. Mr. Vinod Raina, Dr. P.M. Nair and Dr. Almas Ali were the advisers for the thematic areas of education, child protection and health & nutrition respectively. Good practices were suggested by colleagues in SC and also collected through web searches. Advisers and colleagues were consulted for selecting good practices also.

Criteria for selection

In addition to Community Participation, Evidence Base, Sustainability, Replicability, Integration with System and Cost Effectiveness were the general criteria used for selecting good practices. Indicators were identified under each of these criteria for selecting and assessing good practices. In addition, theme specific indicators with regard to education, child protection and health & nutrition were also formulated. Different regions of India have been represented in the selection.

The research for this study is based on desk review of the material produced on these practices by the same organisations as well as studies on them by other organisations. Desk review was further enhanced by qualitative research fieldwork by visiting 15 practices from different thematic areas and regions of India.

Protecting the child

In the field of child protection a few of the good practices mentioned in the book are: “Out of Work and into School” of M.V. Foundation, Andhra Pradesh, which is a multifaceted programme for elimination of child labour; the “Campaign Against Child Domestic Work” of SC in West Bengal, which strives to make child domestic work socially unacceptable; “Creating Child Friendly Villages” of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Delhi, which has set up child participatory social institutions such as Bal Panchayats; “Contact Points and Shelters for Children” of Salam Balak Trust, Delhi, which protects and nurtures urban poor children and “Eradicating Child Labour Through Education” of CREDA, Uttar Pradesh.

The “Model Inclusive School” of Loreto Day School-SC in Kolkatta, which re-integrates urban poor children into the school with participation of the school’s teachers, students and the local community; the “Integrated Community Schools” of Bodh Shiksha Samiti, Rajasthan, which are joint participatory ventures of children, teachers and the local community; “Participatory School Governance” of AMIED-SC also from Rajasthan, which provides quality education for the extremely underprivileged Meo-Muslim community; the “Community Supported Pre-school Programme” of Pratham-SC, Delhi, which runs Balwadis for urban slum children; “Village Education Committees” of Ladakh Area Hill Development Council-SC in Jammu & Kashmir are some of the good practices documented from the education sector.

From health & nutrition some of the practices documented in the book are Home Based Newborn Care (HBNC) of SEARCH, Maharashtra, which is considered as a successful model in reducing neonatal mortality; the Mitanin programme of State Health Resource Centre, Chhattisgarh on which the ASHA of the National Rural Health Mission is modelled, two successful models of community participation in nutrition delivery from the Government sector viz. the Anchal Se Angan Tak programme of ICDS Rajasthan and the Dular Programme of ICDS Jharkhand and the Integrated Health & Nutrition Programme of CARE India in various states.

For sustained progress

Communities for Children found some key processes, which are crucial for sustained community participation for children’s well-being. These processes are: Raising the demand for services, sharing responsibilities with communities, sustained engagement with communities and confidence building, establishing community based organisations (CBO), building community capacities, involving local governance organisations, addressing inequities, ensuring women’s involvement, involving children and incorporating their views and creating partnerships with other stakeholders.

The book was released in New Delhi recently by Dr. Shanta Sinha, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). Dr. Bimal Jalan, Member of the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Maira, Member of the Planning Commission and Dr. Abhay Bang, from SEARCH, Maharashtra spoke on the occasion.

The Author works as Policy and Research Manager with Save the Children.